By Ryan Miner
The Washington County Republican Central Committee – a once-respected bedrock institution in County and state politics that has succumbed to Trumpian dogmatism with no signs of embracing pragmatism or intellectualism – is scrambling to exert its fleeting influence in an area where Republicans are outnumbered by nearly 2-1 – the City of Hagerstown.
As it stands, only two registered Republicans hold elected office within the City of Hagerstown – Delegate Brett Wilson and Hagerstown City Councilman Don Munson.
(Munson is widely regarded by the Washington County Republican establishment as decidedly Republican in name only,” pejoratively, a “RINO.” Munson was ousted in the Republican primary in 2010 from his state senate seat by Chris Shank for a myriad of reasons, including Munson’s inexplicable decision to hire his daughter, Xanthy Munson-Hoover, an inexperienced political neophyte, to manage his outdated campaign and for hosting a joint fundraiser with former Delegate John Donoghue, the longtime Democrat who represented the City of Hagerstown in Annapolis for over twenty years; Donoghue, largely despised by the Washington County Republican established, was defeated in his re-election bid in 2014 by Brett Wilson.)
Rumors are pervasively swirling around Washington County that Delegate Brett Wilson, a talented policy wonk and a formidable state prosecutor who is leading the effort in the General Assembly to fight the heroin crisis, is atop Gov. Larry Hogan’s short list to replace Donald E. Beachley on the Washington County Circuit Court. Given the strong possibility that Wilson may be chosen by Hogan to fill the judicial appointment, the Republican Central Committee is earnestly lining up potential successors to fill Wilson’s District 2B state house seat.
My sources also tell me that Gov. Hogan could instead opt to wait to appoint Wilson to the Circuit Court bench at a later date. M. Kenneth Long, Jr., a Circuit Court Administrative Judge in Washington County, recently turned 69 on May 11, leaving him only nine months until Maryland forces him to retire from the bench at the mandatory age of 70.
Either way, if not chosen to replace Beachley on the bench, another opportunity will avail itself for Wilson to be selected next year. Based on Wilson’s competition, it’s hard to believe he would be passed over twice. Wilson is, in my opinion, the most qualified applicant.
If the latter scenario plays out, the Republican Central Committee must be prepared to choose Wilson’s successor.
The Republican Central Committee, according to multiple Republican sources, is heavily pushing Paul D. Corderman’s City Council candidacy. Corderman, a Republican and political newcomer, however, placed sixth out of eleven in the April 26 City Council nonpartisan primary, behind four City Council incumbents and the immensely popular Emily Keller.
Longtime City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, a Democrat and a popular political figure in City politics, placed 5th in the April primary. Metzner, however, is expected to be re-elected in the November general election – an election that should heavily favor popular Democratic incumbents in a reliably Democratic stronghold, especially in a presidential year when voter turnout is invariably higher than in off-year elections.
Worried that Corderman may fall short in the November general election, the Republican Central Committee, according to several of my sources, is hedging its bets and is prepared with a contingency plan.
If Corderman loses his Council race, it is my opinion that he wouldn’t likely be a viable choice to fill Wilson’s state house seat, and he would certainly not be strong enough to hold off a strong Democratic challenger in 2018.
Here’s the twist: According to my sources, members of the Republican Central Committee have approached incumbent City Councilman Kristin Aleshire, a Democrat, to gauge his level of interest in switching parties to ensure that the seat is maintained by a conservative and a Republican. Aleshire is a former Washington County commissioner who is known for being a strong fiscal and cultural conservative, despite being a registered Democrat.
Indubitably the most popular City Council candidate and a universally respected public servant in Washington County, Aleshire, the first-place finisher in the April 26 primary by a significant margin, will inevitably be re-elected on November 8.
I reached out to Councilman Aleshire to confirm that private discussions did indeed occur between members of the Washington County Republican Central Committee and him with respect to switching political parties to become a Republican. Mr. Aleshire respectfully requested not to go on the record so as not to betray confidences.
My Washington County Democratic sources also informed me that members of the Democratic Central Committee reached out to Aleshire in an effort to persuade him to run for the District 2B state house seat in 2018.
I suspect that Aleshire may seek the City of Hagerstown District 2 seat in 2018 as an Independent candidate.
I find it somewhat ironic that the Washington Republican Central Committee worked with fierce intensity in 2010 to oust Aleshire from his county commissioner seat but – as sources claim – switched course and are now fervently recruiting him to switch parties, become a Republican and work on behalf of Washington County Republicans to maintain their political standing in the City of Hagerstown.
This behind-the-scenes, insider Establishment politics at play should cause Washington County voters considerable alarm. The Washington County Republican Central Committee ultimately chose to replace Bill Wivell with disgraced former acting Washington County commissioner Vincent G. “Woody” Spong in a backroom-style deal that left the County embarrassed statewide after Spong’s nomination was rejected by Gov. Hogan in January when it was discovered that Spong shared a racist meme on his personal Facebook page and uttered sexist remarks to School Board president Donna Brightman.
Politics as usual? You decide.